On May 27, 1941, the German battleship Bismarck was sunk by the Royal Navy after a three-day chase.
Three days earlier, Germany destroyed the HMS Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, was sunk, the British threw everything they had into finding the Bismarck and avenging their battlecruiser.
The Bismarck’s efforts to escape to German-occupied France had been hindered by damage from the battle on May 24. A shell fired by the Prince of Wales made part of her fuel supply unusable and a torpedo from an attack by aircraft from the carrier HMS Illustrious further crippled the ship.
In the late afternoon on the 27th, the Bismarck was finally destroyed by a torpedo from a Swordfish launched from the carrier HMS Ark Royal. After a night of being harried by British destroyers, the Bismarck was steaming in circles when two British battleships and two heavy cruisers caught up with her.
After an hour of firing, the Bismarck was out of action. The Dorsetshire was ordered to finish the Bismarck off with torpedoes — although German survivors claimed they scuttled their ship. Only 118 German sailors survived the sinking of the Bismarck. While one would die of his injuries, the rest would remain prisoners of war.
It’s been a momentous year for Sgt. Elizabeth Marks.
The combat medic and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program swimmer spent the summer garnering international headlines for a grand gesture while winning four gold medals in swimming at the Invictus Games. That led to an appearance at the ESPYs, the awards show that recognizes sports’ highest achievements, to receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service. She followed that up by smashing a world record and winning two medals during her first trip to the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The list of hardware is already impressive. But it received another addition earlier this week.
Marks was named to the ESPN Women’s Impact25 Athletes and Influencers list Tuesday. The list highlights the top 25 women who made the greatest impact in sports and the societies in which they live. Marks joined names such as Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who was also the magazine’s Woman of the Year; Kathryn Smith, the National Football League’s first female full-time coach; and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.
“It’s extremely special to even be mentioned,” Marks said on Twitter about being an Impact25 nominee.
Her unveiling as an honoree was marked by an essay written by Prince Harry. The British royal was at the center of the moment that opened the world’s eyes to Marks.
In May, she made international headlines for her gesture at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.
Marks was decorated with her fourth gold medal at the Games by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 26-year-old gave the award back.
Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff. Her request was honored June 1.
“This is an incredible achievement by any standards,” Prince Harry wrote about Marks’ appearance in the Impact25 list. “And I know this is how she wants to be defined, by her achievements and her abilities. But as an Army sergeant wounded in service to her country, her journey to get to this point has been remarkable. To me, she epitomizes the courage, resilience and determination of our servicemen and women. Using sport to fight back from injury in the most remarkable way, she sums up what the Invictus Games spirit is all about.”
For Marks, her ordeal in 2014 wasn’t the first time she had to endure an arduous hospital stay. In 2010, after suffering devastating injuries in Iraq, she grew nervous about the words being bandied about her such as “end of service” or “retirement.” Marks called her father to vent her frustrations. The former Marine told his daughter to write what was most important to her on a piece of paper. She scrawled “FFD” in pencil on a torn sheet of paper. The acronym stood for “fit for duty.” She was deemed fit for duty on July 3, 2012, after several painful surgeries and a grueling rehabilitation. Marks has not stopped trying to live up to the notion, resuming her job as a medic while also competing for WCAP.
She was back in the pool one month after her ordeal in England. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Fewer than two years later, she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division.
“I was told it’d be six months before I got into a pool again,” Marks told the audience at the ESPYs where she became the first active-duty Soldier to receive the Pat Tillman Award. “I got into a pool about a month out of my coma. Without those physicians, without their service, I would’ve died. I hope that my service could eventually mean that to someone.”
Marks received a standing ovation after accepting the award on the stage of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She thanked her father and the Pat Tillman Foundation for turning an “absolute tragedy into a triumph.” She also thanked her fellow injured service members throughout the world for their support. She said any success she found at the Rio Paralympics would be because of them.
And find success she did. Marks broke her own world record in the breaststroke to win the gold medal. She then had a heroic swim in her leg of the 4×100 medley relay to help the Americans win a bronze medal after getting off to a difficult start.
The feat seemed to cap off a storied sports year for Marks. But this week proved otherwise. And that should suit her desire to inspire her fellow Soldiers just fine.
Hours after the Islamic State (IS) group released a video threatening to behead two Japanese hostages, Japanese Twitter users were defying the militant’s threats by creating and sharing images mocking the militants.
In a January 20 video, a British militant believed to be the infamous “Jihadi John” demands that Tokyo pay $200 million within 72 hours to spare the lives of the two hostages.
If the Japanese public does not pressure the government to pay the $200 million ransom, the militant warns, then “this knife will become your nightmare,” referring to the serrated weapon he brandishes in the video, and with which he is believed to have beheaded several Western hostages.
It is reasonable to assume that “Jihadi John” was not expecting that the “Japanese public” (or at least Japanese social-media users) would react to his threats in quite the way they have — with a Photoshop contest.
Using a Twitter hashtag that translates roughly as “ISIS crappy photoshop grand prix,” the Japanese Twitter meme has gone viral, with hundreds of images being shared. On January 20, there were around 40,000 mentions of the hashtag on Twitter.
Some of the photoshopped images poke fun at what is now an all-too familiar image — that of the black-clad “Jihadi John” flanked by hostages dressed in bright orange jumpsuits designed to evoke images of Guantanamo Bay inmates.
Some images mock “Jihadi John” directly, such as this photoshopped picture that shows the British militant using his knife to make a kebab:
Some of the images shared under the hashtag can be seen as a subversion of a trend popular among IS supporters on social media — that of using Photoshop to create an imaginary and fantastical world in which IS militants and ideology are dominant.
Islamic State supporters have shared photoshopped images that show militants from the extremist group destroying key Western landmarks such as London’s Big Ben and riding victorious on white steeds.
In one image mocking this genre, IS militants — including “Jihadi John” — are photoshopped invading a city in spacecraft. One militant laughs as he holds aloft an IS flag:
While it is the largest and most popular phenomenon to date of using humor as a counter to the Islamic State group’s propaganda, the Japanese “Photoshop grand prix” is not the first case of its type.
A group of anonymous Russian Internet users have been mocking the Islamic State group — and Russian-speaking militants in Syria and Russia in general — for months via a parody group known as TV Jihad, which claims to be a “joint project of Kavkaz Center (the media wing of the North Caucasus militant group the Caucasus Emirate) and TV Rain (a liberal Russian TV channel).”
“We fight against infidels, apostates, polytheists, Shabiha (pro-Assad militia), harbis (non-Muslims who do not live under the conditions of the dhimma, i.e. those who have not surrendered by treaty to Muslim rule), hypocrites, and rafidis (a term used by Sunni militants to refer to Shi’ite Muslims),” the Twitter account says, parodying terms used frequently by Russian-speaking Islamic State and Caucasus Emirate militants.
This tweet shows an image of IS military commander Umar al-Shishani in the snow and asks, “Motorola?” — a reference to Arseny Pavlov, a pro-Russian separatist in the Donbas:
Several prominent leaders in the national defense community are calling upon the Pentagon to re-start production of the high-speed F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet which began air attacks against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
Citing Russian and Chinese stealthy fighter jet advances, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne wrote an OPED in the Wall Street Journal describing the current fleet of F-22s as massively insufficient to address today’s fast-changing global threat environment.
The F-22’s recent performance in combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria have led observers and analysts to emphasize the importance of the fighter.
The OPED argues that the Pentagon needs to resurrect production of the Lockheed-Boeing-built Raptor or replace it with a new aircraft with comparable capabilities; Forbes is the current Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and Wynne served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2005 until 2008.
“Raptor incorporated cutting-edge technologies that had never been combined in a single aircraft: composite materials, computer avionics, thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, and radar countermeasures. It became the first “fifth generation” fighter, a high-speed, super-maneuverable stealth aircraft that still outclasses everything else in air-to-air combat,” the OPED writes.
The Air Force had originally planned to build more than 700 F-22s, however ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan inspired new, more immediate thinking regarding the global threat calculus – leading the Pentagon to ultimately truncate the fleet sized down to only 187 jets, the OPED says.
The move was part of a Pentagon culture fostered by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wherein developers were suffering from what he called “next-war-it is” and not sufficiently focused upon the pressing needs on ongoing ground wars.
“By the time the Raptor started rolling off the production line in 2002, the high-tech threats it had been designed to defeat had faded from view. Instead of Russian MiGs, Pentagon leaders were worried about improvised explosive devices,” the essay writes.
Writing that the U.S. Air Force’s fleet is the smallest and the oldest it has ever been, Forbes and Wynne point out that Russia and China have been developing, fielding new fighters and, in some cases, and exporting sophisticated air defenses to countries like Iran.
“Russia rolled out its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, the PAK-FA, in 2010. China followed in 2011, flight-testing the J-20, an F-22 look-alike, while Secretary Gates was visiting Beijing. Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, warned last year that future Russian and Chinese jets “will be better than anything we have today,” Forbes and Wynne write.
In addition, the House Armed Services Committee recently added language to a draft version of the proposed defense authorization bill requiring the Air Force to study the issue of restarting F-22 production.
Air Force officials have explained that, as much as the service may want more F-22s in the fleet, the money to build them again would most likely need to come from elsewhere in the budget.
As evidence of the current Air Force position on the issue, the service’s Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, recently told Congress that restarting F-22 production would require billions of dollars.
Bunch cited a recent Rand study on the issue, explaining that the service was no longer analyzing the possibility due to budget realities.
“We viewed it, in the light of the balancing act we’re already doing between readiness and modernization, as something that would be cost prohibitive and we would have to take something else out that we value right now to try to meet the requirements to be able to do that. And so we have not put any further analysis into that,” Bunch said.
On this topic, however, the Forbes-Wynne letter cites the Rand study’s finding that it would cost over $500 million (in 2008 dollars) to restart production on the F-22.
“If the Air Force ordered 75 additional jets, Rand estimated they would cost $179 million each,” the letter states.
If lawmakers were somehow able to increase the budget or secure the requisite funding for additional F-22s, it certainly does not seem inconceivable that Air Force and Pentagon developers would be quite enthusiastic.
F-22 Raptors sit on the flight line at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo
Inside the F-22’s Mission in Iraq
Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Broadwell explained.
F-22 as “Aerial Quarterback”
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained.
For example, drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAP mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
Japan’s military will practice deploying anti-missile batteries at three US bases in Japan as concern grows about the North Korean missile threat.
The exercises will take place August 29 at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in western Japan. They will be repeated on September 7 at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.
The US military says the drills will test the ability of Japanese and US forces to work together and assess firing locations at the bases. They will also allow Japan to practice rapid deployment of its PAC-3 anti-missile system.
North Korea has conducted a series of test launches to develop its missile capability and recently threatened to send missiles over western Japan and into waters near the US territory of Guam.
A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up outside of a US military base in Afghanistan on Sept. 6 in retaliation for the US dropping leaflets that were offensive to Islam the day before, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Three US soldiers were wounded and an Afghan interpreter was killed, the Washington Examiner reported Sept. 7, in the blast that occurred at an enemy-control point outside of Bagram Air Force base, the LA Times and Reuters reported.
Three Afghan troops were also wounded, the Examiner reported.
Taliban spokesman Zabihulla Mujahid tweeted Sept. 6 that the bombing was to “avenge” the insulting leaflets.
#منصوري:#عاجل: عصر امروز در دروازه ۳بگرام درانتقام توهین به کلمه طیبه براشغالگران امریکایی حمله فدایی امجام شد.
The leaflets the US dropped from a plane on Sept. 5 in Parwan province pictured a lion, symbolizing the US-led coalition, chasing a dog, which symbolized the Taliban.
Dogs are considered an unclean and dangerous animal by many Afghans, according to The Washington Post, and the one depicted on the leaflet had part of the Taliban flag superimposed on it along with a common Islamic creed.
“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet,” the creed, known as the Shahada, reads.
“Get your freedom from these terrorist dogs” was also written on the leaflet above the two animals, the LA Times said. “Help the coalition forces find these terrorists and eliminate them.”
The Taliban also released a statement on Sept. 6 that the leaflets showed the US’s “utter animosity with Islam,” The Post reported.
“We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide. There is no excuse for this mistake,” he said. “I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable. Furthermore, I will make appropriate changes so this never happens again.”
Many Afghan civilians were also irate with the leaflets.
“It is a very serious violation. The people are very angry. It is a major abuse against Islam,” the Parwan province police chief, Mohammad Zaman Mamozai, told The Post.
“Why they do not understand or know our culture, our religion, and history?”
“The foreign forces don’t have any idea of what are the values of the Afghan people,” Ahmad Shaheer, an analyst living in Kabul, told the LA Times. “They’ve hired some interpreters and advisors who only know how to speak English, make money, and gain trust, but really are strangers to the real values of the local people.”
The US has been at war in Afghanistan for almost 16 years, and President Donald Trump recently announced he would be deploying more American forces — about 4,000 by most estimates — to the war-torn country.
Rogue FBI translator Daniela Greene stole off to Syria and married the Islamic State terrorist she was supposed to investigate.
Federal records state that Greene, who had a top secret security clearance, lied to the FBI about her reason for traveling to Syria. She also told her ISIS husband he was under investigation, CNN reports.
The man’s name is Denis Cuspert. He started off as a German rapper and eventually moved to Syria to join the Islamic State, adopting the name Abu Talha al-Almani.
Greene joined him in Syria but quickly realized she had made a terrible mistake and fled back to the U.S. It’s not clear how she traveled into Syria or how she managed to escape from deep inside the country.
She was immediately arrested upon returning to the U.S., at which point she served two years in prison and was released the summer of 2016.
Since she no longer works at the FBI, she’s taken a job as a hostess at a hotel lounge.
Her story has never been told until now.
The trouble began when she was assigned to monitor Cuspert due to her fluency in German. Cuspert had converted to Islam in 2010 and ended up in Egypt and Libya in 2012.
In 2013, he made the jump to Syria and later appeared in a 2014 video in which he pledged allegiance to ISIS .
Although it’s unclear how the relationship between Greene and Cuspert formed, Greene completed an FBI travel authorization form, saying she was traveling to Munich for vacation. Instead, she flew to Istanbul, Turkey, and went to a city close to the Syrian border, at which point a third party brought her over the border.
She then married Cuspert.
Before she left Syria, she told an unidentified person in the U.S. what a horrible mistake she had made.
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No matter how advanced smart bombs get, and no matter how stealthy and quick an aircraft can become, the A-10 has one factor that guarantees it can never truly be replaced: its gun.
These days, pretty much any warplane can drop guided munitions with pinpoint accuracy, but what makes the A-10 so special is one of the only weapons used by the US Air Force that isn’t precision-guided: the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger gun with 1,150 incendiary rounds.
In a recent press release, Air Force Col. Sean McCarthy, the 447th Air Expeditionary Group’s commander, explained in a US Department of Defense release exactly why the A-10 can do missions no other plane can.
McCarthy, who commands 550 airmen operating out of Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, revealed that deliberate targeting of ISIS assets in Syria accounts for only about 10% of airstrikes carried out from the base.
The other 90% are dynamic strikes, or strikes where troops on the ground call in for airstrikes. This is where the Warthog shines.
“A troops-in-contact [report] pops up or a target pops up at short notice, and we respond. It generally doesn’t involve an integrated effort with the coalition. It’s just usually a two-ship of A-10s that show up overhead and we conduct our mission,” McCarthy said of the A-10’s operation out of Incirlik.
The A-10 actually operates in the field as an even more precise weapon than even the most advanced smart bombs.
“The No. 1 thing when it comes to strikes is making sure we do as little damage as possible, especially killing civilians. We try very hard to keep that from happening,” McCarthy said.
So when there is any reason to believe that civilians may be in the area, the A-10 is the best tool for the job. In a murky situation, where “there’s no way to know whether they’re civilian noncombatants or not, we don’t take the chance” of using a bomb, McCarthy said.
“That’s a type of target we’ll go after with the gun,” he added. “It’s a low-collateral-damage weapon, pinpoint accurate, and we employ high-explosive incendiary rounds so nothing’s walking away from that if they get hit.”
Watch the A-10 rip its 30mm gun with pinpoint accuracy, and hear the legendary ‘BRRRT’ in the video below:
The Syrian government has asked Iran to take over the supervision and payroll of thousands of Shi’ite militiamen fighting alongside Russian and Syrian troops in support of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a government source and a news report.
The pro-opposition Syrian news website Zaman Al Wasel reported that it obtained a Syrian defense ministry document saying the Assad regime has approved a plan to give Iran responsibility for paying foreign fighters – mostly Shi’ites of varying nationalities. Shi’ite fighters mostly are paid in cash from Iran, the Syrian government and coffers of the Lebanese-based, pro-Iranian Hezbollah, according to analysts.
Iran would foot the bill alone in the future, a Syrian official told VOA on the condition of anonymity, confirming the Al Wasel report.
“The number of Shia militia has increased dramatically during the last two months,” the official said. “While a big part of these militia were recruited by Iran, a relatively big part was recruited by the Syrian government directly. We are speaking about more than 50,000 militants from different nationalities. The Syrian government requested that Iran provide for all of the mentioned militias.”
The document from Al Wasel put the number of fighters to be paid at 88,733 — a figure analysts say is exaggerated. They estimate that about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria fighting alongside thousands of fighters from Lebanon’s Tehran-affiliated Shiite militia Hezbollah and assorted Shiite militia made up of renegade Pakistanis, central Asians and other nationalities. Since January 2013, more than 1,000 members of Iran’s elite Quds Force or other elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units have been killed fighting in Syria.
Tehran says its forces are in Syria to protect the Zeinab Shrine in Damascus, a Shi’ite holy site. But since 2011, Iran has been a major backer of the Syrian regime in its war with rebel groups across the country, at first sending advisers, then forces from the IRGC and expanding far beyond the shrine area.
Iran has long expressed a desire to command a unified army in the region, particularly in Syria, and its growing power in Syria and Iraq is causing unease in Western capitals. In an interview with the Mashregh news agency last August, Mohammad Ali Falaki, an IRGC leader, announced formation of a unified army in Syria which appears to have come to loose fruition.
“It would hardly be abnormal for Iran’s IRGC to be controlling yet more Shia jihadists,” said Talha Abdulrazaq, a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute.
In the long run, the formation of a unified army in Syria under Tehran supervision appears very practical, analysts say.
“It seems plausible that the Syrian government shift the responsibility for management and organization of the militias, especially where financial burden is concerned,” said Rasool Nafisi, a Middle East affairs expert in Washington.
Asserting its military prowess would help Iran push its political agenda in the region, some analysts believe.
“The bigger and more advanced army you control, the stronger voice you have,” said Daryoush Babak, a Washington-based retired Iranian military adviser.
But unifying Assad supporters under Tehran’s umbrella could worsen sectarian conflict in the region between Shi’ites and Sunni, analysts say.
Iran is looking for any chance to increase its influence and gain an upper hand against Saudi Arabia, its strongest rival in the war of minds and hearts, analysts say. Saudi Arabia and Iran support rival groups in Syria’s civil war. And In a speech in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump accused Tehran of contributing to instability in the region.
“Tehran and Riyadh … keep contradicting each other to prove whose ideology leads the region,” said Nafisi.
While Syria has relied on Iran militarily in the fight against rebels and Islamic State, it’s unlikely to grant Tehran a controlling foothold in the country, analysts say.
“In Syria, it is not likely to happen as long as the Assad regime harbors ambitions of regaining sovereignty rather than being reduced to an Iranian protectorate,” said Alfoneh.
Bell Boeing recently test fired laser-guided rockets from the V-22 Osprey aircraft in a series of mock combat demonstrations at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., showing for the first time that the tiltrotor aircraft can be used for offensive missile and rocket attacks.
The forward-firing flights at Yuma shot a range of guided and unguided rockets from the Osprey, including laser-guided folding-fin, Hyrda-70 Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System rockets and laser-guided Griffin B missiles, Bell helicopter officials said.
“The forward-firing demonstration was a great success,” Vince Tobin, vice president and program manager for the Bell Boeing V-22 said in a written statement. “We’ve shown the V-22 can be armed with a variety of forward-facing munitions, and can hit their targets with a high degree of reliability.”
Bell Boeing has delivered 242 MV-22 tiltrotor for the Marine Corps and 44 CV-22 for Air Force Special Operations Command. Bell Helicopter began initial design work on forward fire capability in mid-2013, company officials said.
V-22 Osprey aircraft have been deployed in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. The aircraft are often used for humanitarian assistance, casualty recovery, medical evacuation, VIP transport and raid missions. If the Marines or Air Force choose to use the rocket or missile capability, the Osprey will gain additional offensive attack mission possibilities.
“Integrating a forward firing capability to the Osprey will increase its mission set,” Tobin continued. “These weapons, once installed, will provide added firepower and reduce reliance on Forward Arming and Refueling Points, or FARPs, which are sometimes necessary to supply short range attack rotorcraft in support of V-22 operations. Without the need for FARPs, V-22s can be launched more frequently, and on shorter notice.”
The air-to-air missiles of the F-4 Phantom II were notoriously unreliable in the skies over Vietnam. If the Phantom a pilot was flying was an early model and those missiles failed them in a dogfight, it was time to hightail it out of the sky.
Luckily for Col. Phil “Hands” Handley, he was flying a U.S. Air Force F-4E on June 2, 1972, when he and his wingman were surprised by two enemy MiG-19 fighters. That day, Handley would score the highest-speed air-to-air gun kill ever, breaking the speed of sound to do it.
Handley and three other F-4E Phantoms were flying out of Ubon Air Base in Thailand in support of a search and rescue mission near Hanoi. The Americans were looking for a pilot who was shot down 23 days prior.
Low on fuel, two of the F-4Es departed to rendezvous with an aerial tanker. Handley and his wingman kept flying the mission. The two were taken by surprise when two North Vietnamese MiG-19s appeared out of nowhere.
Neither pilot wanted to leave the other, but Handley’s wingman immediately went high. Turning hard into the pursuing enemy fighter planes, Handley turned on his afterburners and turned again, this time to the rear of the enemies. He made ready to fire his missiles.
Handley’s F-4E Phantom was carrying a total of four missiles. Two of them were AIM-4 heat-seeking missiles and two were AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. This didn’t bode well for the pilot or his wingman, because the AIM-7 Sparrow had a 10% probability of killing the target. The AIM-4 was much worse, with only a 5% probability of killing the target.
That huge gap between killing and failure was on full display when Handley fired his missiles. All either flew wide, flew up, dropped to the ground or didn’t leave the rail at all. Undoubtedly, there was no one more disappointed by this than Handley, except for maybe his wingman, who had two MiG-19s bearing down on him.
With his wingman critically low on fuel over “Thud Ridge” and unable to engage the enemy, his only chance was Handley’s 20mm cannon. It was a shot that had never been done before.
Closing in rapidly, which is an understatement considering Handley was flying at Mach 1.2, he fired a high deflection shot, a three-second burst from the plane’s M-61 Gatling gun into a MiG’s flight path.
300 rounds from the Phantom lit up the MiG-19, which exploded into a flying ball of fire. Handley’s own speed and flight path put a lot of distance from the remaining enemy fighter, which broke off its attack. His wingman met his date with the tanker and they all returned to Ubon Air Base.
It was the first time a pilot used his cannon at supersonic speed to down an enemy fighter. As if breaking a combat record wasn’t great enough, when the F-4E pilots returned to base, they learned the pilot they were searching for had been found and rescued.
“Hands” Handley would be in the United States Air Force for 26 years, retiring in 1984, still holding the record for the highest-speed guns kill in aviation combat history and the only supersonic guns kill ever made. To this day, he still holds that record.
The standard-issue combat boot that most soldiers wear today — the one most commonly worn in Iraq and Afghanistan — is great for sandy dunes, hot dry weather and asphalt. But it’s proven to be not so good in hot and wet environments.
So the Army has developed a new jungle boot that some soldiers will see this year.
In September, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley directed the Army to come up with a plan to outfit two full brigade combat teams in Hawaii, part of the 25th Infantry Division there, with a jungle boot. The Army had already been testing commercial jungle boots at the time — with mixed results — but didn’t have a specialized jungle boot, so Program Executive Officer Soldier, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, had to get a plan together to make it happen.
By October of last year, the Army had made a request to industry to find out what was possible, and by December, contracts were awarded to two U.S. boot manufacturers to build a little more than 36,700 jungle-ready combat boots — enough to outfit both full IBCTs in Hawaii.
“This is important to the Army, and important to soldiers in a hot, high-humidity, high-moisture area,” said Army Lt. Col. John Bryan, product manager for soldier clothing and individual equipment with PEO Soldier. “We are responding as quickly as we possibly can, with the best available, immediate capability, to get it on soldiers’ feet quickly, and then refine and improve as we go.”
Right now, the new jungle boot the Army developed will be for soldiers at the 25th ID in Hawaii — primarily because there are actually jungles in Hawaii that soldiers there must contend with. The new boots look remarkably similar to the current boots soldiers wear — they are the same color, for instance. And the boots, which Bryan said are called the “Army Jungle Combat Boot” or “JCB” for short, sport a variety of features drawn from both the legacy M1966 Vietnam-era jungle boot and modern technology.
The M1966 Jungle Boot — which featured a green cotton fabric upper with a black leather toe that could be polished — had a solid rubber sole that soldiers reportedly said had no shock-absorbing capability. The new boot uses a similar tread, or “outsole,” as the M1966 “Panama style” — to shed mud for instance and provide great traction, but the added midsole is what makes it more comfortable and shock absorbing, said Albert Adams, who works at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts.
The outsole of the new boot is connected to the leather upper via “direct attach,” Adams said. That’s a process where a kind of liquid foam is poured between the rubber outsole and leather boot upper. It’s “a lot like an injection molding process,” he explained.
The foam layer between the rubber sole and the upper portion of the boot not only provides greater shock absorbing capability, but he said it also keeps out microbes in hot, wet environments that in the past have been shown to eat away at the glues that held older boots together. So the new boots won’t separate at the soles, he said. “It provides a high level of durability, and it also adds cushioning.”
Also part of the new boot is a textile layer that prevents foreign items from puncturing through the sole of the boot and hurting a soldier’s foot, Adams said. The M1966 boot accomplished that with a steel plate. The new boot has a ballistic fabric-like layer instead.
Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Morse, an instructor at the Jungle Operations Training Center in Hawaii, said the puncture resistance is welcome, noting that punji sticks, familiar to Vietnam War veterans, are still a problem for soldiers.
“They use these punji pits for hunting purposes,” he said. “In Brunei, you are literally in the middle of nowhere in this jungle, and there are natives that live in that area, and still hunt in that area, and it can be an issue.” And in mangrove swamps, he said, “you can’t see anything. You don’t know what’s under your feet at all. There are a lot of sharp objects in there as well.”
The new JCB also features a heel with a lower height than the M1966 model, to prevent snags on things like vines in a jungle environment. That prevents tripping and twisted ankles. Among other things, the boot also has additional drainage holes to let water out if it becomes completely soaked, speed laces so that soldiers can don and doff the boots more quickly, a redesigned upper to make the boots less tight when they are new, an insert that helps improve water drainage, and a lining that makes the boot breath better and dry faster than the old boot.
“You’re going to be stepping in mud up to your knees or higher, and going across rivers regularly,” Adams said. “So once the boot is soaked, we need it to be able to dry quickly as well.”
Morse has already been wearing and evaluating early versions of the JCB and said he thinks the efforts made by the Army toward providing him with better footwear are spot-on.
“The designs were conjured up in a lab somewhere, and they were brought out here, and the main focus was the field test with us,” Morse said. “A lot of us have worn these boots for a year now, different variants of the boots. And all the feedback that we’ve put into this, and given to the companies, they have come back and given us better products every single time.”
Morse said he hadn’t initially worn the new jungle boots that he had been asked to evaluate. On a trip to Brunei, he recalled, he went instead with what he was familiar with and what he trusted — a pair of boots he’d worn many times, the kind worn by soldiers in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I wore a pair of boots I’d had for a couple of years,” he said. “I wore them in Brunei and I had trench foot within a week. But then I thought — I have this brand new pair of test boots that they asked me to test; they are not broken in, but I’m going to give them a shot. I put them on. After 46 days soaking wet, nonstop, my feet were never completely dry. But I wore those boots, and I never had a problem again.”
The Army didn’t design the new JCB in a vacuum. Instead, it worked with solders like Morse to get the requirements and design just right — to meet the needs of soldiers, said Army Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, the assistant product manager for soldier clothing and individual equipment.
“We worked with soldiers to come up with this boot. We take what soldiers want and need, we boil that down to the salient characteristics, hand that over to our science and technology up at Natick; they work with us and industry, the manufacturing base, to come up with this product,” Ferenczy said. “This is a huge win, a great win story for the Army, because it was such a quick turnaround. Industry did a fantastic job. Our product engineers are also top of the line. And we had a ton of soldier feedback. … We really dealt very closely with what the soldier needs to get where we are.”
In March, the Army will begin fielding the current iteration of the JCB to soldiers in the first of two brigade combat teams in Hawaii. During that fielding, the boots will be available in sizes 7-12. In June, the Army will begin fielding the JCB to the second BCT — this time with a wider array of sizes available: sizes 3-16, in narrow, regular, wide and extra wide.
They will also go back and take care of those soldiers from the initial fielding who didn’t get boots due to their size not being available. A third fielding in September will ensure that all soldiers from the second fielding have boots. Each soldier will get two pairs of JCBs.
In all, for this initial fielding — meant to meet the requirement laid out in September by the Army’s chief of staff — more than 36,700 JCBs will be manufactured.
By December, the Army will return to Hawaii to ask soldiers how those new boots are working out for them.
“Al Adams will lead a small group and go back to 25th ID, to conduct focus groups with the soldiers who are wearing these boots and get their feedback — good and bad,” said Scott A. Fernald, an acquisition technician with PEO Soldier. “From there, the determination will be made, if we had a product we are satisfied with, or if we need to go back and do some tweaking.”
Fernald said that sometime between April and June of 2018, a final purchase description for the JCB will be developed — based on feedback from soldiers who wore it. He said he expects that in fiscal year 2019, an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract will be signed with multiple vendors to produce the final version of the JCB for the Army.
Bryan said the JCB, when it becomes widely available, will be wearable by all soldiers who want to wear it — even if they don’t work in a jungle.
“From the get-go we have worked… to make sure we all understood the Army wear standards for boots,” he said. “One of the pieces of feedback we have gotten from soldiers before they wear them is they look a lot like our current boots. That’s by design. These will be authorized to wear.”
While the JCB will be authorized for wear by any solider, Bryan made it clear that there will only be some soldiers in some units who have the JCB issued to them. And right now, those decisions have not been made. Soldiers who are not issued the JCB will need to find it and purchase it on their own if they want to wear it.
“We are not directing commercial industry to sell them,” Bryan said. “But if they build to the specification we’ve given them for our contract, they can sell them commercially and soldiers are authorized to wear them.”
While taking enemy contact, a Chinese mortar struck a Marine bunker near where replacement Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was engaging opposing forces. From this position, he heard the screams of his wounded comrades coming from inside the newly-damaged area.
Naimo, who joined the Marines to avoid being drafted into the Army, dashed over to aid his brothers, exposing himself to enemy fire.
As mortars continued to destroy the surrounding area, Naimo spotted two severely wounded Marines and scooped up one of them up, protecting him with his own body. Soon after, Naimo dropped off the first injured Marine at the aid station and headed right back for the second man as waves of incoming enemy fire blanketed their position.
After returning to the aid station with the second wounded Marine, Naimo informed the corpsmen that he was going to head back to the bunker and continue to fight.
Upon his arrival at the unmanned bunker, he was lucky to discover the Marines before him had stockpiled it with machine guns, ammo, and extra grenades. As the next wave of Chinese attacks throttled, Naimo fired the arsenal of weapons into the enemy — who closed within 15 yards of his position.
Hours later, Marine Lt. Walter Sharpe came across Naimo’s bunker, where he found 36 dead soldiers from the 65th Army Group of Mongolian laid out. Sharpe decided to recommend Naimo for the Navy Cross but sadly was killed in action two days later. He never filed the proper paperwork to get Naimo his Navy Cross.
More than six decades after his heroic efforts, then-Lt. Bruce F. Meyers (who was injured in that same battle) filed the necessary paperwork to award Cpl. Salvatore Naimo the well-deserved Navy Cross.